Episode #180 — The History of Trade Mark of Quality Bootlegs

Dear Disney+, have we got a pitch for you! In case you’re looking for more shows to expand the Star Wars universe, we have an idea just in time for Valentine’s Day. Sure, it’s hard to top Baby Yoda sipping broth or peeking out from behind boxes (and yes, we know that’s not his actual name), but what would you say to a romance starring Chewbacca and Han Solo? Heidi has just the random stuffed animal to serve as inspiration for “Desperately Seeking Chewie” — a comedy that takes place aboard the Millennium Falcon. It’s a will-they-won’t-they concept in the vein of “Moonlighting.”

Or, if you view this week’s episode on YouTube and see what this stuffed Valentine-themed Chewie looks like, it could also move to FX and be Ryan Murphy’s next venture. (“American Horror Story: Unsettling Toys” is our vote, especially since we want to give Mr. Creeperton as much exposure as possible. We’d also accept “American Crime Story: Toys from CVS.”) At this point Heidi would like to clarify that she doesn’t keep stuffed animals out in her home all the time. Just for when her nieces and nephews visit. And we completely believe her …

There was a time in our lives when having dolls, teddy bears, etc., out in our rooms was conventionally acceptable. (Note: We’re not judging if you have a collection of stuffed animals. We’re not stuffie shamers. But we are a little confused by a certain British prince who has a collection of 70-some teddy bears placed around his bedroom just so. With a diagram to show the maid where they go. And that’s not even close to our biggest issue with him.) Anyway, the stuffed animal time in our lives coincided with listening to the radio so we could hit record when our favorite songs came on, all in the name of making an amazing mix tape. What else are you supposed to do when your parents won’t let you go see The Bangle’s Different Light Tour when you’re eleven? So, we had to make do with our truly uncool version of bootlegged music. If only Pigman was doing his thing when we were kids!

If you’re picking up what the previous sentence was laying down, you can skip to the next paragraph. But if not, here’s a brief backstory. The bootleg record label, Trade Mark of Quality, created some of the first and best-known recordings of popular music from the 1960s and 70s. From Great White Wonder and Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be to Blueberry Hill, some of the best recordings came from a bootlegger known only as Pigman. So, for those of you who couldn’t make it to a Rolling Stones or Dylan concert, Trade Mark of Quality (TMQ) had you covered. Or if you did go to the concert and wanted to remember that incredible show — or if the radio was only playing a couple of songs from your favorite band and you wanted the entire album — you were covered, too.

Just how in the world did the mysterious Pigman bootleg albums by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Jethro Tull, David Bowie, The Who, and tons of other legendary bands and singers from the late 60s to mid 70s? Our guests for this week’s episode are Ralph Sutherland and Harold Sherrick, the authors of the definitive history and catalogue of the TMQ label, “A Pig’s Tale.” If you have even half as many questions as we did about the history of bootlegged albums, you’ll love hearing what Ralph and Harold have to say.

TMQ’s albums weren’t like those bootlegged NKOTB albums you got in the 90s during that one trip to NYC. These were an audiophile’s delight. Ralph and Harold’s book covers how the label bootlegged these albums, getting into concerts and other venues and working to get the sound just right. And if you’re wondering what the musical acts who showed up on the TMQ label thought, our guests have some answers. They also discussed whether copyright laws were different in TMQ’s heyday, and if the Feds were interested in what Pigman was up to. As for Pigman, after learning more about the scope of TMQ’s activities, you get a better sense of why he remains an enigma. Who is he? And does he actually live on a remote island somewhere?

Check out this week’s episode to get drawn into the fun and the mystery of Trade Mark of Quality and Pigman. But stay for a true course in music appreciation and to hear the perspective of two authors who dedicated a lot of time and passion into researching the heck out of this music label. In fact, we had such a great time talking with Ralph and Harold that we have even more questions for them on Rock ‘n’ Roll Grad School. “A Pig’s Tale” is available from Genius Books, and you can follow Ralph and Harold on Facebook and on Twitter. Prepare to be fascinated!

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